Dr. Cheryl Woodson

Woodsonian Informational Thoughts on Thursday: Sexual Satisfaction- Staying Frisky after 50

Despite what many people seem to think, in the second half of life, good sex is NOT impossible, but there are a few realities to face and overcome.

The universe does not care about sex for the “seasoned saints” because it did not intend for us to live this long. In the rest of the animal kingdom, most individuals don’t live much beyond their reproductive years. For humans (at least in the industrialized world,) sociology has surpassed physiology; we live much longer.

Women and men experience changes with normal aging, but these changes work at cross-purposes. A mature woman can experience dryness in the vagina, slower arousal, and shorter, less intense orgasms. As a man ages, erectile dysfunction (ED) becomes more common. The same risk factors that block blood vessels and decrease circulation to the heart, brain, kidneys, and limbs, also affect the sex organs. When blockages decrease blood flow to the heart, people experience chest pain called “angina.” ED does not cause physical pain, but you can think of it as angina of the penis. High blood pressure and cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, and family history increase the risk of ED, but heavy alcohol use can also contribute.

If a man has ED, his erections are not as firm, and they don’t last as long. If the he knows he cannot sustain his erection, he may bypass foreplay, rushing to penetrate while he is still able to perform. Softer erections make penetration more difficult. This can cause pain for his partner, especially if she is dry (due to hormonal changes that come with normal aging, her own risk factors for poor circulation, or limited arousal time.) Once intercourse begins, his erection may not last long enough to give his partner the extra time she now needs to reach the pleasure point.

Men often complain that their wives, “never want to do it anymore,” but believe me, anticipating the lack of arousal, pain, and sexual frustration can really kill the mood. Performance pressure and shame aren’t good for a man’s desire, either. Concerns about what it means to be feminine, or masculine, and doubts about being attractive are destructive for both partners. Defending against these feelings of inadequacy, couples may ridicule, lash out at their partners, or worse; they just stop trying.

Instead, lovers should understand that the changes of normal aging challenge both partners and work together to compensate for those changes. Privacy and romance are even more important in mature sexual activity than in the earlier years. “Quickies” were exciting, but they may not be the best option, now. Make plans that limit distractions and decrease the chance for interruption. Penetration and orgasm are not the only goals; concentrate on communication, intimacy, and taking time to give each other pleasure. The key to satisfying sex in mid-life and beyond is committing to being kind and considerate, and instead of laying blame, taking time to decrease the impact of the changes that come with normal aging.


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